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Concert Reviews:
Sugarland's fun is serious business at DTE

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, July 9, 2011

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Sugarland has had some serious success as a band. But that doesn't mean it takes itself all that seriously.

In fact, the Nashville duo's sold-out show Saturday night (July 9) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre was light and frothy in the best possible ways, elaborately staged but relatively (and refreshingly) free of the earnest conceits that are part and parcel of most acts at this level. For 90 minutes Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush played for fun with a capital F-U-N, rarely missing an opportunity to show off a little goofy choreography or get up close and personal with their fans.

Want an autographed guitar? Sugarland gave one away -- which Bush presented to a young girl seated near the center of the DTE pavilion. Sing to your mother? Nettles did that during "Baby Girl," grabbing another young fan's cell phone to give mama a little love. A Most Valuable Fan Award? But of course -- to a pregnant woman standing in the seatless pit in front of the stage. Nettles, who risked any diva credentials by wearing the same outfit for the entire show, gave her permission to name the baby Jennifer or Kristian, as long as she didn't have it at the show.

The music followed suit, with the 17-song set focusing on the uptempo side of Sugarland's four-album catalog and drawing seven tracks 2010's chart-topping "The Incredible Machine." Toe-tapping -- at the very least -- was impossible to resist during "Stuck LIke Glue" and "All I Want to Do," while Nettles, Bush and their five-piece band turned "Everyday America" into a mash-up with bits of Cee-Lo Green's "Forget You," Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby, One More Time," Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" and the Destiny Child hit "Bootylicious." "Find the Beat Again," meanwhile, morphed into Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and then into Bon Jovi's "Who Says You Can't Go Home," with Bush covering Jon Bon Jovi's parts.

If all this doesn't sound very country -- well, Sugarland is NOT very country, despite its success in the genre. With nary a pedal steel or fiddle to be found in the group (until the closing cover of Dexy's Midnight Runner's "Come On, Eileen" with opening act Sara Bareilles), Sugarland dished up plenty of straight-down-the-middle pop-rock, turning soulful on "Stay" and riding heavy rock power chords on "Something More." And there was a determined U2-y ambience in the "Bad"-like strumming of tonight and the ambient builds of "Incredible Machine" and "Stand Up." For the latter, Nettles painted "Love" with a peace sign in the O on a white flag, then asked yet another young fan to carry it through the crowd -- shads of Bono and "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

She also co-opted the U2 singer's latest signature line -- "Thank you for giving us a great life" -- as Sugarland took its bows.

None of that was a negative, however. If Sugarland hasn't significantly crossed over into the pop market, it's bringing that world to the country audience without reservation. And on Saturday night at DTE, without any discernible resistance.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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